How Do We Swallow?
- The first stage is the oral preparation stage, where food or liquid is manipulated and chewed in preparation for swallowing.
- The second stage is the oral stage, where the tongue propels the food or liquid to the back of the mouth, starting the swallowing response.
- The third stage is the pharyngeal stage which begins as food or liquid is quickly passed through the pharynx, the region of the throat which connects the mouth with the esophagus, then into the esophagus or swallowing tube.
- In the final, esophageal stage, the food or liquid passes through the esophagus into the stomach.
What Are the Symptoms of Swallowing Disorders?
- A feeling that food or liquid is sticking in the throat
- Discomfort in the throat or chest (when gastro esophageal reflux is present)
- A sensation of a foreign body or "lump" in the throat
- Weight loss and inadequate nutrition due to prolonged or more significant problems with swallowing
- Coughing or choking caused by bits of food, liquid, or saliva not passing easily during swallowing, and being sucked into the lungs
- Voice change
How Are Swallowing Disorders Diagnosed?
How Are Swallowing Disorders Treated?
Gastro esophageal reflux can often be treated by changing eating and living habits in these ways:
- Eat a bland diet with smaller, more frequent meals.
- Eliminate tobacco, alcohol and caffeine.
- Reduce weight and stress.
- Avoid food within three hours of bedtime.
- Elevate the head of the bed at night.
If these don't help, antacids between meals and at bedtime may provide relief.
Many swallowing disorders may be helped by direct swallowing therapy. A speech pathologist can provide special exercises for coordinating the swallowing muscles or stimulating the nerves that trigger the swallow reflex. Patients may also be taught simple ways to place food in the mouth or position the body and head to help the swallow occur successfully.
Some patients with swallowing disorders have difficulty feeding themselves. An occupational therapist or a speech language pathologist can aid the patient and family in feeding techniques. These techniques make the patient as independent as possible. A dietician or nutritional expert can determine the amount of food or liquid necessary to sustain an individual and whether supplements are necessary.
Once the cause is determined, swallowing disorders may be treated with:
- swallowing therapy
Many diseases contribute to swallowing disorders. If you have a persistent problem swallowing, see an otolaryngologist - head and neck surgeon.
What Causes Swallowing Disorders?
Swallowing difficulty can also be connected to some medications including:
- Anticholinergic agents found in certain anti-depressants and allergy medications
- Calcium tablets
- Calcium channel blockers
- Iron tablets
- Vitamin C
- Tetracycline (used to treat acne)